Mikhail Aleshin secured his first Verizon P1 Award this afternoon, on the 2.5-mile track of Pocono Raceway. The track, commonly referred to as the Tricky Triangle, had a mix of sun and clouds throughout the qualifying session, proving to benefit the Russian. He had a 2-lap average of 220.445 mph, and was probably holding his breath when Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, AJ Foyt Racing) and Josef Newgarden (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy, Ed Carpenter Racing)made their attempts. Sato and Newgarden were the only other cars in the field to run averages in the 220 range, but luckily for Aleshin, they came in just shy of his time.
Since Aleshin did not run in the Verizon IndyCar Series last season, he only has one other start at the super speedway, in 2014. That season was his rookie year, starting from an impressive P12, making his way past cars and staying clean for the duration, to finish P7. He admittedly loves ovals, speaking on the infatuation during his Verizon P1 Award press conference:
“I just love it. I mean, I heard some of my colleagues from Europe that came over here and tried IndyCar, they told me that I going to hate the ovals because it’s just completely different thing, completely different idea compared to what you normally do in Europe. But obviously I came over here. The first time I tried, it was test. Actually I loved it straightaway. I felt that it’s just so interesting. It’s very intense racing, you know, on the ovals. You need to think like two times faster than on normal tracks because you’re just going a lot faster. That’s definitely what the racing should feel like.”
After the scary accident he had in Fontana of that rookie season, it’s great to hear that his feelings about oval tracks have not changed. That embrace of all variety in racing tracks, is the mark of a true open-wheel racer and it’s great to have him back here in the paddock, not to mention his fearlessness out on track. That fearlessness is where his nickname, “the Mad Russian” originated.
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver is the first Russian in Indy car racing, and therefore the first driver of Russian-decent to hold a pole position in the series. His focus is enviable, seeing as how he came into the Pocono Raceway weekend after a rough race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course three weeks ago. Aleshin led the most laps (33) but lost that lead during a pit incident where he made contact with Newgarden’s car and one of Montoya’s pit personnel. He had to restart from the back of the field and also serve a drive-through penalty for those infractions, giving him a P17 finish.
He looks to work off the successful strategy calls they made in Mid-Ohio and use their starting position tomorrow, in order to find success on an oval. The question on everyone’s minds now, is: Can Aleshin follow up his first career pole with his first career win? We will find out tomorrow… and yes, I am saying tomorrow because I’m an optimist – so the storm will hold off and we will get this race in, in it’s entirety, on Sunday.
Aleshin and SPM are the top story coming out of Team Honda today, but they are not the only reason for the manufacturer to be smiling. Honda-powered cars make up 5 of the Top 7 positions on the grid for the 2016 ABC Supply 500.
Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway:
Saturday, August 20:
Practice #1 – 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. ET
Qualifying: 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. ET
Practice #2 – 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, August 21:
Systems Check – 11:30 a.m. – 11:35 a.m. ET
ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. E.T.
The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN.
Qualifying will be broadcast as a tape delay on Saturday night/Sunday morning on NBCSN at Midnight ET.
Practice sessions will be livestreamed.
All links to livestream and IndyCar radio coverage is available here.